The world of LEGO is a massively popular one, one that can be seen in toy stores, movie theaters, game stores, and more. Having been around since 1949, the block building system is beloved by people of all ages, and has stood the test of time, becoming a instantly recognizable brand that partners with equally infamous pop culture icons. As a big collector of toys and games myself, I was surprisingly never big on Legos, just because it wasn’t something that was around in my households growing up. Now in 2022, I am a little more hip as my best bud and Player2Reviews co-founder Lee bestowed upon me Lego set 71395 for Christmas in 2021. This set is none other than the Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block.
If you know Lee, then you know that he is a huge fan of Lego. And what better way to get me in the mix than with something Mario themed. While the box remained sealed through the end of the year, just as the calendar changed and we rang in a new year, my wife and I caught COVID for the first time. This put us out of work for the first week of the year, and in between rest and misery, we found ourselves putting together the some 2000 pieces included in the kit, and it became the perfect distraction for getting through our shared illness. Since then, I have only gotten a few small sets as well as the Sonic the Hedgehog set, but have had my eye on a few choice others (Batman Tumbler, GotG Milano, Atari, etc…)
Earlier this year when Bricktales news blurbs hit our emails, I was intrigued to say the least. Now, Lego is no new comer to the gaming world by any means, but Bricktales stood out as something different. As opposed to the traditional adventure style outings of LEGO Star Wars/Marvel/Batman, Bricktales stood out as a project that aimed to stoke the creativity of the real-world toy while providing a calming yet intriguing puzzle based challenge. And it accomplishes that, mostly, but takes a few attempts at features that just don’t click. The missteps it takes along the way never seem to connect with the core concept, and that notion is mostly aimed at the overworld story features. Where the actual building portions of the game are mostly spot on, the overworld interactions sadly are lackluster and fail to build upon that foundation. Ok, apologies, trying to get that out before we get into bag…er…paragraph four.
Wordplay aside, Bricktales did deliver on the promises of the trailer, at least early on. The story mode is simple, giving the player enough of a purpose to get things started. Your grandpa’s amusement park is set to permanently shut down, unless of course, you can somehow help him repair his rides. To do this, he has built a machine that can make the repairs in no time. The catch? They are powered by happiness crystals, which can only be obtained through, you guessed it, making others happy. To do that, you must travel with your robot companion to distant lands and solve their problems through the power of building. Again, just enough to give you purpose. I don’t think anyone that plays this game is going to find anything wrong with having the story as a guidance tool to WHY you must build, but its certainly nothing worth praising either. There is some clever dialogue, but nothing in the lands you travel to beg to be explored further once you make it through a map, but more on that later.
"...Bricktales did deliver on the promises of the trailer, at least early on."
Before I get to my gripes with some of the lackluster features when not building, lets take a look at the main course, the actual construction! In Bricktales, you are met with a variety of puzzles in the shape of simple goals that need to be met in order to press forward. Some builds are necessary for traversal, like building a bridge (the developers at ClockStone have worked on the Bridge Constructor series in the past so they know a thing or two about that) or a set of stairs, while others are more aesthetic and easily achieved, like crafting a market shop or rollercoaster seat. Your ultimate goal is to build something with the requirements in mind that is physically sound, meaning it can pass a simulation where it is self-sustaining, and in some cases, can hold the weight of dummy robots traversing it. You are given an assortment of pieces, and a restricted area to build in, and left to your creativity. The best part of this notion is that the bridge or staircase that I somehow manage to succeed will almost certainly differ than other players. There is sometimes a clear idea of what needs to be made, with pieces being there for specific reasons, but it doesn’t guarantee a player must use them. This is both the game’s greatest strength, and in some ways, its biggest weakness.
Now I say weakness in the sense that, with an aforementioned lackluster overworld, the building should have been given an even bigger platform to excel in. Outside of the necessary builds, there is also a sandbox mode. Don’t get too excited, there is not a true sandbox mode where you can build freely as you please, but rather, one that adds on to existing puzzles and lets you jazz up your existing “passing” builds. Just made a watering well? Throw some snakes on there for good measure. That brown bridge of yours not quite doing it for you? Snag your yellow panels and make it a bit brighter! While this feature does open the bag on creativity a bit more, I don’t think Bricktales encourages it enough. There is never a need to enter sandbox mode, nor is it heavily advertised throughout the game. While each map has a shop where you can purchase more sandbox items like brick colors, new outfits and various setting themed special pieces, I think the dull overworld exploration could have excelled had it encouraged creative building as a way to unlock new pieces or earn the currencies littered about.
See, the overworld allows you to explore via abilities your character gains throughout the story. These abilities only have to do with traversal, not building. So in essence, the only encouragement to return to old maps is to do with new abilities, which in turn allow you to find more map specific currency or hunt collectibles. I think, as opposed to this, some collectibles should had been held behind special, harder puzzles. And by special, I mean to say they could have had different goals that integrated, wait for it…., SANDBOX MODE. Don’t just make a structurally sound platform, do it with less than 50 pieces and it must have 4 animals on it. Create a slide using at least 5 different brick colors. Anything even close to my suggestion would have given more reasons to find currency and purchase sandbox items, and in turn, encourage using them and 100% maps. Without this effort to make sandbox a core component of the experience, the game starts to lose that spark.
The control scheme also starts to wear thin as the game goes on. During each puzzle you have a tray of the pieces you are allowed to experiment with, as well as the restricted play area that you have to construct in. The camera is adjustable in a variety of ways, but what negatively effects the gameplay the most is the perceived depth perception. The game tries to snap to appropriate locations as needed, but fails to do so in a lot of situations, especially as the build gets further in. While trying to finesse a piece in somewhere to maybe add stability and achieve a passing build, you may find a small move becomes difficult. I met my breaking point in the 4th of the 5 worlds on display of the game. At one point, you need to craft a fire escape which is arguably, up to that point, the most complex build in the game. Between Lee and myself, we struggled to not only make a sturdy build, but to control the camera in this situation, as the working area for the build was both tall and not that deep. With the build containing a lot of pieces and tight squeezes, the camera was unruly, and made a difficult challenge genuinely unenjoyable.
The opening of the game encompasses a magic that I had presumed to be a consistent vibe throughout the whole game, but alas, like a well-used plastic brick, the game grows duller with time. I think the price tag would afford a bit more substance. While any Lego fan might be used to the higher pricing, other audiences may have a hard time justifying it for a small puzzle title with limited features. The good news is that ClockStone has a great foundation here that can, literally, be built upon for a sequel or spin off. I think the concept is in the right hands, but for a game and product about creativity and expression, Bricktales feels surprisingly held back.
*Note: A copy of the title was provided for the purpose of the review
FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10
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